Fans have been creating their own merchandise based on their favourite artists forever, but it’s a relatively recent trend for artists and music companies to actively encourage this – and build commercial models around it.
The latest startup trying to make that happen is US-based Softside, which works with artists to tap the merch-design skills of their fanbases.
It is currently gathering submissions for its “debut apparel drop”, which it’s describing as a Fan-Designed Merchandise Festival. Artists Indigo De Souza, Charlie Burg, Ambar Lucid and Ella Jane are the musicians involved, with the submission process having opened on 30 September, running to 14 October.
Fans can send in artwork inspired by the participating artists, or their portfolios of past work. Softside and the musicians will then choose their favourites, and turn them into merch, with the fans receiving a share of the sales revenue.
“The idea is to build a community that fully embraces fans’ artistic skills while also protecting musicians’ IP,” said founder Erin Singleton. “A platform that doesn’t turn a blind eye to the ‘bootleg’ merch world, but rather amplifies the spirit behind it.”
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